First, the bad news. India continues to lag behind in healthcare services more than half a century after independence. The population-to-bed ratio in India is one bed per 1,000, the World Health Organisation norm being one bed per 300. So the fact that there are over 13,000 hospitals with ‘adequate’ facilities might not be something to brag about in a country as populous as India. Even their distribution is skewed. While there are 3,115 hospitals in Maharashtra and 2,040 in Kerala, Himachal Pradesh has only 57 hospitals and Haryana, 78. The difference is primarily due to the difference in the extent of private sector participation in the health sector. In states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala, some 90 per cent of all hospitals are owned privately.
That, in a curious way, is the good news. At least as far as the business of health is concerned. The past decade was marked by an explosion of private healthcare facilities in Indian cities. The Chennai-based Apollo Hospitals kicked it off with the country’s first corporate hospital service in the early ’80s. Emboldened by the success of private hospitals, even some government-owned hospitals have improved. No wonder the Indian healthcare industry is estimated to be close to Rs 1,00,000 crore today and is expected to grow at a steady 15 per cent annually.
The profusion of choice today, in both private and public sectors, has been both good and bad for the consumer. Good, because quality choice really follows the coming of age of any industry and more so in healthcare. But given the absence of compliance of strict regulatory and quality standards, an abundance of choice also gives a free run to dubious health facilities run by urban quacks.
The Outlook-Cfore survey of India’s Best Hospitals is an effort to help the consumer separate the wheat from the chaff. The findings are the result of a rigorous five-month-long exercise undertaken by a dozen researchers after quizzing 679 doctors around the country on six parameters that we thought a quality hospital must meet to qualify (see methodology).
The outcome is an exhaustive list of India’s best hospitals in six disciplines: cardiology, gastroenterology, infertility, mental health, ophthalmology and oncology. We also profile the top hospitals in these categories around the country. The nationwide top list is even-handed: an equal number of India’s six top hospitals are in the private and government sector, giving quality treatment at affordable prices. Otherwise, government hospitals scored low mainly due to mismanagement, lack of cleanliness and an apathetic attitude towards patients.
To help our readers, the survey chose the top five hospitals in six disciplines in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The result: India’s first ever comprehensive quality listing involving some 200 Indian hospitals. We hope it offers critical clues to our readers in choosing their best healthcare destination.
Premchand Palety, director, Centre for Forecasting and Research (Cfore)